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Getting help

The employer-employee relationship is not always straightforward, and we would be the first to caution restraint on the part of both employer and employee – claims and actions are often unsettling, time consuming, and inherently uncertain as to the outcome.

Given that taking action against an employer can change the way that the employment continues from then on, seek early advice on employment law from our panel of employment law solicitors.

There are certainly times when employee law rights need protecting, and these include the obvious things like being paid correctly, having proper terms and conditions of employment, having time off, and employment law specialists can help here.

Examples of areas where problems can arise:

  • Bonus disputes - disagreement about the payment conditions of an agreed bonus, or if a bonus payment is being withheld. There are two types of bonus;
    • Contractual - where the bonus has been agreed in writing as part of the employees package and will usually be based on the performance of an individual or the overall performance of the company (or the department) in which the individual is employed.
    • Discretionary - normally agreed against some sort of performance related targets. The payment of the bonus is at the discretion of the employer – who must act reasonably.
  • Disciplinary Issues – employees may find themselves being held to account by employers and if so, employees might want to consider assistance from an employment solicitor preparing for the hearing, help analysing the strengths and weaknesses of the allegations, advice in relation to appeals, assistance in considering an employment tribunal claim; and negotiating an exit or Settlement Agreement.
  • Grievance – employees may wish to raise a grievance with their employers about the way that they have been dealt with, a perceived unfairness, or maybe a bullying allegation. It can be worthwhile seeking advice on employment law before going down this route as this can impact behaviour in the workplace.

Discrimination & Whistleblowing

Whistleblowing

Depending upon the nature and method of their disclosure, a person who reports some form of actual or suspected wrongdoing may qualify for protection as a whistleblower. You must have a reasonable belief that a wrongdoing has occurred, and that it is not in the public interest. Usually employees are under obligations of confidentiality to their employer which means that information about what goes on inside a company should not be shared with anyone outside the company. However the law recognises that certain thngs should fall outside of this and actually employees should be protected under UK employment law if they speak out.

Examples can include

  • Criminal offences, such as fraud or money laundering;
  • Health and safety breaches;
  • Risk or actual damage to the environment;
  • Any areas in which a company is breaking the law, and cover-ups;
  • Preventing whistleblowing itself or poor management thereof.

Most companies have policies which employees should follow, but circumstances may require careful consideration.

Discrimination

Discrimination on the grounds of certain “protected characteristics” including sex, age, gender, race, religious belief, marital status, pregnancy can give rise to claims, and even if people treat you differently because they believe one of these apply to you, this can qualify.

Discrimination can be direct or indirect – perhaps unintentional but nonetheless discriminatory.

Employment Tribunals

We know that the last thing most individuals want to do is to become embroiled in a dispute with their existing or former employer or be forced into issuing a claim against them in an Employment Tribunal. Individuals can find that the actions of their employer, former employer and/or their colleagues often leave them with no realistic alternative. 

Work Harrassment & Work Bullying Claims

What is workplace bullying and harassment?

The Equality Act 2010 lays down specific regulations with regards to workplace harassment based on personal characteristics such as race, gender and sexuality. 

Often, however, workplace bullying is much subtler, and can include actions such as:

  • Humiliating you in front of peers or customers
  • Being verbally or physically abusive
  • Regular unwelcome teasing or ‘banter’
  • Excessive criticism of work output
  • Unfair denial of advancement opportunities or holidays
  • Exclusion from activities directly related to work or projects you’re working on
  • Expecting overly-long hours from you in comparison to your colleagues.

If carried out over a lengthy period of time after you have made it clear that these actions are unwelcome could be classified as bullying in the workplace. 

If a specific individual is found guilty, they could be punished by a fine of up to £5,000, up to 6 months in jail, or both. In the majority of cases, however, it is the employer as a whole who is to blame for these actions. If found guilty, the employer would be expected to compensate you for loss of earnings and pay your legal fees.

Termination of employment & Unfair dismissal

Unfair dismissal is where a worker is forced to resign against their will because of the actions of their employer. Not everyone has the right to claim this, however, so it is important to confirm your position under the applicable employment law before taking this step.

Redundancy

Employers are entitled to make staff redundant for certain situations and the law provides for rules regarding how and when this is permissible. In our experience once an organisation has placed you at risk of redundancy there is a high probability that sooner or later the employment will come to an end and therefore it can be wiser to focus on ensuring that a suitable exit package is in place. Getting good quality advice from an employment solicitor is key, and may end up in negotiation and conclusion of voluntary redundancy packages and Settlement Agreements 

Restrictive covenants

Restrictive covenants are contractual clauses which restrict the use of this information both during and after an employee’s time with a business. 

The most common types of restrictive covenants that employees can use are:

  • Non-competition – these prevent an employee working for competitors
  • Non-solicitation – these prevent poaching of clients, suppliers or customers 
  • Non-dealing – these prevent a former employee from dealing with clients/customers/suppliers 
  • Non-poaching – these prevent a former employee from poaching key members of staff

Enforcing a restrictive covenant

Generally speaking, in order for a restrictive covenant to be legally binding, it must go no further than is required to protect a legitimate business interest. For example, worldwide restrictions or restrictions which try and prevent ex-employees for competing for excessive periods of time will rarely be upheld by the courts.

Settlement Agreements

A settlement agreement is a legally binding agreement between an employer and an employee in which the employer offers to pay the employee an enhanced sum of money in exchange for the employee agreeing to give up their right to bring claims arising out of their contract of employment and/or its termination. They usually follow discussions to terminate employment, and end with the employee leaving.

In many cases, a settlement agreement is the ideal outcome for both employer and employee, as it allows both parties to move on and helps avoid the need to bring a costly, time-consuming claim against an employer.

By agreeing to a settlement, you are able to move on and look to the future while still being fairly compensated, rather than spending a lengthy period of time going through the process of an employment tribunal.

You will often see the terms ‘settlement agreement’ and ‘compromise agreement’ used interchangeably, although now these are referred to as settlement agreements

Family Businesses

If you own shares in a family business, who should own shares and when should they receive them? Should it only be family members who work in the business and who should have the voting control on those shares? What are the tax implications? How do you treat all your family fairly, especially if not all of them work in the family business? What if you, or they, fall ill, lose capacity or divorce? What should happen then? Considerations include:

  • Succession 
  • Exit options
  • Selling your business
  • Balancing the interests of those working in the business with family members who are not
  • Reorganisations and demergers
  • Buying out shareholders 
  • Asset protection
  • Family governance and shareholder agreements
  • Business wills, trusts and lasting powers of attorney for shareholdings
  • Family Investment Companies
  • Business and personal tax planning
  • Family, shareholder and land disputes

Other issues

You may need assistance with the following, and some no win no fee employment solicitors will take on cases for issues including Notice, Probation, References, Stress, and Constructive dismissal.

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